December 6th, 2005

Hail Santa

That Special Christmas Weirdness (#1)

There are stories about the Christmas season that are heart-warming. They remind us of the best in ourselves and each other, remind us perhaps of happier times. There are stories about the Christmas season that are heart-breaking. We shy away from remembering Christmases gone horribly, sickeningly wrong, of events so sad or so nasty that they spoil the whole season, perhaps forever.

This isn't one of those stories. There are also Christmas stories that are, well, just plain Wrong. Surreal. Stories of times that the Christmas season got so bizarre and unbelievable that you laugh about that special bit of weirdness, that moment of, "Oh, my God, that did not just happen!" that sticks with you for a lifetime, for the rest of your life. As an old guy whose life has frequently wandered off into the surreal, I have at least three of those stories. This is one of those stories ... although you won't see the holiday connection for a little while, so bear with me.

Not long after I got my first apartment, I stumbled upon a decoration that I immediately had to have. I forget if I found it at a science fiction convention or at a poster shop that specializes in old movie posters, but it was a reprint, a replica, of the sepia-toned BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU signs from the original big-screen version of George Orwell's 1984.

I had the perfect place for it, too. I hung it in the bathroom, opposite the toilet, in every place where I lived from about, well, yeah, about 1984 to when I sold the house in Bridgeton in 1996. Most people thought nothing of it, or at least said nothing about it. They knew I was a science fiction fan, especially of politically-themed SF, and it was hardly the only piece of classic SF memorabilia in the house, and they just took it in that context. About one out of every ten visitors to the apartment or the house sat down, looked up into those accusing eyes, and freaked out, complaining to me that they felt silly saying it, but they felt really uncomfortable looking at that poster while on the can. I had a very, very hard time keeping a straight face at such times, because it was in hopes of generating exactly that reaction that I hung it there.

The very first Christmas season after I bought it, as I was decorating (and I always decorate for Christmas, heck I decorated the RV for Christmas) the apartment, I had a flash of inspiration. So I grabbed some red and white construction paper, and a bag of cotton swabs ... and from then on, until I got rid of the poster as part of the Moving Sale of the Gods in 1996, from Thanksgiving to New Years Big Brother wore a flat, red construction-paper cut-out Santa hat with 3-D ball at the end and 3-D white fake-fur trim, and a big white fluffy beard. Neither decoration, of course, did anything to cover up those staring eyes, nor of course the Party slogan. It was a huge hit.

(Walks away humming, "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good ...")